Published on May 8th, 2012 | by Charitarian2
Tomorrow’s Leaders Today
The Apprentice/Dragons Den Beijing Branch
At the weekend (5 and 6 May) Wang invited me to act as a judge at the OVAL “Business” competition at Beijing Foreign Languages University. The competitors were 1st and 2nd year students from Japan, Korea and China. The role of the company representatives was to choose the best business plan as presented by groups of three students. All presentations were made in English and in some cases the students were skyping in to join their team mates from across the globe. Before I joined the competition I thought that I was doing Wang a favor. However, by the close of the day’s sessions on Saturday, I realized that I had learned a lot from listening to this cosmopolitan group of young leaders. Also I met students that any company would be keen to hire. Confidence and charisma were the USP’s that singled out the winners.
The products that they presented were very varied. One group had invented an ‘app’ that measured heart rate; another group had designed an organic farm and produce service to avoid health-food scares; but the group that I liked best were running “Silver-love” – a dating agency for the aged. Their ideas were professionally presented. The judges were generally C-suite and media representatives from companies in Beijing. Deloitte and KPMG were sponsors. Other judges included the country manager for Lamborghini, a Korean Government member and an academic from Beida. Hong Kong University gave a very strong presentation after which one of the judges asked the students where they were from. Two were Mainland students and one was from Taiwan. In fact the notable ‘leaders’ of the pack were generally business savvy Shanghainese living abroad e.g. UK or Hong Kong. They had an edge in language, connectivity and content. It was hard to believe that these ‘kids’ (only 19) had such an incredible grip on how to approach the Chinese tier 2 market then globalize.
As well as the “Mainland China” dominance of the competition, I was struck by the significant proportion of female entrants. One group of three young ladies presented what could easily become a successful business. Their theme was ‘ageing China’ and they had produced some amazing hard copy and online ‘Memory Books’ for rich second generation kids to buy for their Grandparents. By research, interview and collation of family pictures they had produced online and hard-copy albums that were not only emotionally engaging for family but had broader appeal in educational terms for overseas academics interested in 1960′s/70′s China. The girls presented with such flair; the chemistry of real friendship was so refreshing compared with the internal competition common in most companies. What happens when these young women go to work I wondered? Where do these shiny young women go before reaching the boardroom? Today I meet with Yimeng to discuss a mentor program for fledgling female businesses in China. Watch this space!
Pictures: Students competing in the OVAL business competition in Beijing